Politics & Government

We cover politics and government with an eye to providing to voters clear, in-depth, nonpartisan information. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

In the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing mass child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, state lawmakers are considering changes to the statute of limitation law. 

Toomey Lauds Senate’s Passage Of Sweeping Opioid Crisis Legislation

Sep 18, 2018
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The U. S. Senate passed sweeping legislation intended to combat the nation’s opioid crisis in a 99-1 vote on Monday evening.

Matt Slocum / AP

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is putting more muscle into showing what he's accomplished in his second term as he vies for a third six-year term in November's election.

On Monday, Casey is appearing at a micro-metal stamping and screw machining firm to tout legislation he helped write to increase funding for vocational skills training for high-demand industrial-sector jobs.

As Campaign Cash Rolls In, 2 House Races Tilt To Democrats

Sep 17, 2018
Alex Brandon / AP

Money is starting to pour into Pennsylvania's midterm congressional races and, with the GOP's control of the U.S. House on the line, ominous signs are surfacing for Republicans in races that several months ago had been considered even contests.

Republican groups, including the National Republican Congressional Committee, have begun airing TV attack ads to protect freshman Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in suburban Philadelphia and to try to oust three-term Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in northeastern Pennsylvania, where President Donald Trump did unexpectedly well in 2016.

Matt Rourke / AP

A top state lawmaker wants to break down the walls keeping unaffiliated voters from participating in Pennsylvania’s primaries.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati is saying he’s concerned closed primaries are making both parties more extreme.

Under the commonwealth’s current election law, only registered Democrats and Republicans can cast ballots for their own parties’ races.

Scarnati’s proposal wouldn’t let third parties into the process, but it would let unaffiliated voters pick a major party candidate to support.

David Dermer / AP

Former President Barack Obama's stops on the mid-term campaign trail will run through Philadelphia.

The state Democratic Party said Obama will headline a Sept. 21 rally in Philadelphia to boost the re-election campaigns of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, but also other down-ballot races that Democrats are contesting.

In the Philadelphia area alone, Democrats are hoping to flip four U.S. House seats and more than a dozen state legislative seats that will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballots.

Screen grab / Keith Rothfus for Congress

The hotly contested race between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Keith Rothfus has achieved a milestone: Rothfus has aired the first attack ad in the 17th Congressional District. And he's apparently hoping that a mouse will roar. 

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

Local Democratic state lawmakers announced Thursday they’ll soon introduce a raft of reforms to improve police-community relations and enhance management at local departments. 

Matt Rourke / AP

A new plan to combat the opioid crisis was released this week by gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner. The Republican discussed the plan on Thursday at an event outside Pittsburgh, and said that Gov. Tom Wolf has not done enough to combat the opioid epidemic.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The first TV ad of this year's low-key U.S. Senate campaign in Pennsylvania is now on screens in the state's biggest media market of Philadelphia.

Survivors Of Child Sex Abuse Again Push PA To Suspend Statute Of Limitations

Sep 13, 2018
Emma Lee / WHYY

Pennsylvania’s recent grand jury report on the sexual abuse of children in Catholic dioceses throughout state has renewed calls to change statute of limitation laws.

Advocates and those sexually abused as children held a press conference Tuesday in Southeastern Pennsylvania urging lawmakers to provide a two-year window for past victims to file civil charges retroactively.

Speaker Calls Window For Sex Abuse Lawsuits 'A Compromise'

Sep 12, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

The Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives says his chamber is poised to take up changes to the state's limits on child sexual abuse lawsuits, predicting a 2-year window to allow victims with older claims to sue would pass.

Speaker Mike Turzai on Wednesday called the 2-year window "a compromise" compared to a different proposal to entirely eliminate limits of lawsuits for victims of all ages.

Last month's sweeping grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church also recommended a 2-year window.

U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania is the top law enforcement officer for the region, prosecuting federal crimes ranging from national security to civil rights, from public corruption to narcotics.

The office takes its marching orders from the sitting President, so Trump appointee Scott Brady says he understood that attorneys hired during the Obama administration might feel some trepidation about his arrival.

Every year, the families and friends of those killed on Flight 93 gather near the spot where the United Airlines jetliner went down, and read the names of their lost loved ones.

Agreement Would Allow 2 W. Va. Justices To Keep Seats

Sep 11, 2018
Steve Helber / AP

Two of four impeached justices on the West Virginia Supreme Court would be allowed to retain their seats on the bench after they reached a proposed agreement to be censured by the state Senate.

The agreement announced at the start of a pre-trial process Tuesday involves justices Beth Walker and Margaret Workman and was made with House of Delegates managers serving as prosecutors in upcoming impeachment trials. It would publicly censure and dismiss impeachment articles against them.

Zach Gibson/AP, Bastiaan Slabbers/WHYY

When I met U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick at his Capitol Hill office, I was surprised when the former FBI agent said we had to turn around and go do the interview outside.

Once we settled on a spot, his aide was then surprised that Fitzpatrick sent him away. But his office is a congressional office and his aide is an official aide and Fitzpatrick says he doesn’t want to blur the line between his campaign and official duties. His aide finally caught on as the congressman sent him back inside.

“I’m a former FBI agent,” Fitzpatrick said. “We do things by the book.”

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The political arm of Planned Parenthood plans to pour $2.5 million into Governor Tom Wolf’s re-election campaign. According to the Planned Parenthood PAC, that's the largest-ever investment the organization has spent in any state on a midterm race.

Wolf Reports $414K In 2017 Income, $1.3M In Charitable Gifts

Sep 7, 2018
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is reporting about $414,000 in adjusted gross income in 2017 and nearly $1.3 million in charitable donations in a federal tax return.

Wolf made the two-page form 1040 public Friday and let The Associated Press review the rest of his 102-page federal tax return in a campaign office.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner, who has made millions in waste-hauling, has declined to release his tax return.


The FBI has been embroiled in several controversies since the 2016 election, but the new head of the agency’s Pittsburgh office, Robert Jones, said the public shouldn’t focus on that.

Jones, who became the office’s special agent in charge (SAC) in June, addressed the issue in a meeting with reporters on Thursday.

“[FBI] director [Christopher Wray] asks all the SACs, when they come out and interact with the media,” Jones said, “to remind everybody that 99.9 percent of our cases have nothing to do with Clinton emails, or [the] Russia investigation, or meddling in elections.”

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

If Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, he will create a conservative majority that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Such a ruling would severely limit access to abortion across the country.


These days, many of the protesters you might see outside abortion clinics are there because of their religious beliefs.


Redistricting Battles Already Playing Out In 2018 Midterms

Sep 5, 2018
Matt Rourke / AP

The task of drawing new boundaries for thousands of federal and state legislative districts is still about three years away, yet the political battle over redistricting already is playing out in this year's midterm elections.

Emma Lee / WHYY

After Parkland, Florida, high school shooter Nikolas Cruz was found to have had a history of domestic violence, Pennsylvania legislators introduced a bill calling for those convicted of domestic abuse to give up their guns.

Under Pennsylvania’s current law, those abusers have 60 days to do so — or they can give the guns to a relative or a friend. If they are subject to a protection from abuse order, which is a civil infraction, it’s up to a judge whether they must relinquish their firearms.

Lucy Perkins / 90.5 WESA

The emergency room at Magee-Women’s Hospital was a very different place 40 years ago than it is today.

Alex Brandon / AP

Senate hearings began Tuesday on the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. And while Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey was well out of the spotlight, he echoed many of the concerns that his fellow Democrats were expressing on Capitol Hill.

“It’s gonna be a critical week,” Casey said of the hearings during a Tuesday interview with 90.5 WESA. “The big issue out of the box is not even a review of his views – that will come obviously as part of the hearing. But the big issue now is the access to information and documents.”

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County Jail is still determining how 11 employees got sick over the weekend, prompting a facility-wide lockdown.

Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Opening statements are underway in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Watch the hearing live:

Associated Press

President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court begins his Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday. If confirmed, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will tip the court to the right and make overturning Roe v. Wade a possibility.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The community where a police officer fatally shot Antwon Rose in June might get rid of its police department. East Pittsburgh officials said last month they’d consider paying another agency to police their borough.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The Allegheny County jail is on lockdown after 11 employees were sickened by an unknown odor or substance.